Since Trump got elected I have been arguing that symbolic and rhetorical protests mean zip—only real action and engagement does.
That said, this call for a general strike a week from now is really, really stupid, or naive. The only thing worse than inaction is failed action. And this is going to fail—big time.
This call for a general strike a week from now is really really stupid, or naive. The only thing worse than inaction is failed action. And this is going to fail—big time.
In all of American history I do not believe there has ever been one national general strike. In the early 20th century there were a handful of successful LOCAL general strikes... I'm thinking of Seattle in 1919 when somewhere around 65,000 workers went out for five days. There were also some statewide longshoremen strikes in the days of Harry Bridges.
Strikes, generally speaking, require that little detail known as UNIONS. The percentage of American workers currently unionized in the private sector is at an all time low of 6 percent. Unionized government workers are somewhere around 32 percent if you count cops and firefighters (unlikely strikers).
A general strike in the U.S. would mean the country is on the precipice of regime change and revolution. We are not. Further, we live in a country that, among Western democracies, provides the least amount of worker protection. Suggesting that non union workers strike for a day is irresponsible as nobody is prepared toto support them when fired. Most unionized workers labor under contracts that have a "no strike" clause in them anyway.
Any successful strike, even in ONE targeted industry or shop takes months and months of very very hard organizing. There is no preparation or organizing nor infrastructure to make this February 17 action anything more than science fiction.
It also suggests a recurring flaw in thinking among America's "progressive" community. It is what Prof. Adolph Reed derides as the "spark theory"—that some EVENT like the occupation of the Wisconsin capitol 6 years ago or this coming "strike" is going to magically and overnight trigger a real social movement for change. Nope.
Social movements have to be built, painstakingly, by activists, organizers, leaders and rank and file. Engaging people in fizzled events like this ill-conceived nationals strike only demoralizes participants who sense the failure.
We see some encouraging signs of real movement around us, in spite of this foolish call. Organizing to show up at Town Halls to save Obamacare is a great start. Discussion of extending sanctuary status to new institutions and cities, and even forming human chains to block escalated ICE raids is another good one.
The governing principle here is that ORGANIZING leads to successful events as part of building a social movement... not the othe way around.
But is some sort of impressive national event possible at this early stage? I would say yes... if you call for the right thing. My proposal event I steal from the Chilean right wing during the Allende period. How about a National Blackout... one the requires no risk off losing your job and that does not require a thousand field organizers. Set a time like 9PM Eastern and ask all those who oppose Trump policies to flick their home and business lights on and off for 15 minutes?
If you like, you can try a national high school and university walk out and at a given hour... not easy to do but a lot more plausible than a sure to fail general strike.
And, finally, what we really need to be talking about is how we turn the self-titled Resistance Movement into an effective INDEPENDENT political force. No need to found a dead ended third party nor to become an appendage of the DNC. The trick here is to build a movement of civil society with a coordinating leadership (that does not include elected hacks) and that gains enough traction that Democrats have to become OUR appendage. Right now that is where they are at... scrambling behind the base and desperately trying not only to catch up with us, but also co-opt us. The only thing the Dems want is for you to use your energy and bodies to vote for their candidates and resume business as usual. My well-earned pessimism tells me this is the most likely outcome. But one can hope that this time will be different.
Come the mid terms, this growing social movement might indeed have to take 5 minutes and vote Democratic because the system remains locked up. But that cannot and should not be our only goal.
That's it, for now. See you when I disembark from the Finland Station.